Register For Our Mailing List

Register to receive our free weekly newsletter including editorials.

Home / 95

Retirement spending: set the bar lower

The longevity of its citizens is one indicator of the prosperity of a society. Australia is well up there – the most recent published Australian life tables (released in December 2014) show that a 65 year old man today is expected (on average) to live to 84.2 years and a female to 87.0 years. This means we will have more retirees living for longer. But in terms of their financial health, the key question is: Will their savings run out before they do?

Life expectancy continues to increase

There’s no doubt that Australian retirees will need to combine lower spending strategies and the right investment options to improve the chance that their income will last for an increasingly likely period of 25 years or more in retirement. Mortality rates for the over 65s have been improving steadily since the early 1970s and retirees are now expected to live 3 to 3.5 years longer. Using these improved life tables, there is more than a 70% chance that at least one of a retired couple will be alive at the age of 90.

Using Towers Watson’s Retirement Planner, we modelled a number of scenarios for a couple, both aged 65, retiring today with superannuation assets of $500,000. A couple was chosen based on 2007 Census data that showed more than 70% of Australians enter retirement as part of a couple. When considering how you invest for financial success in retirement, there are several factors that come into play, including how much superannuation a saver has available at the start of retirement, their spending plans, the amount of any other savings they have, as well as their risk tolerance and preferences. An individual’s spending strategy however, is one of the biggest factors that will determine whether or not they will achieve financial success.

The Retirement Planner showed the impact of different investment strategies for the couple who want to make their savings last 25 years to age 90, varying their exposure to growth assets from 0% (cash) to 30% (conservative) to 50% (moderate) to 70% (balanced) to 85% (growth) to 100% (high growth).

Investing in a balanced portfolio, the couple is expected to be able to spend $57,705 a year (including Age Pension amounts available after applying means tests) up to age 90. After that, they would be expected to rely solely on the Age Pension. It is important to recognise that this is only the expected outcome. There is only a 48% chance that their superannuation will last until age 90. But if we looked at this from the spending perspective, we can see a different impact.

If the couple adopts a lower spending strategy (say, $50,000 or $52,000 a year), there is a much higher likelihood of success (more than 80%) for both the conservative and balanced options. Alternatively, if the couple spends at higher levels (such as $54,000 to $58,000 a year) then the investment option chosen has a more significant impact on the outcome. For example, under a balanced investment option, spending $54,000 a year has a 67% likelihood of success, compared to 56% under a conservative investment option.

Impact of spending strategy and investment option on likelihood of super lasting to age 90

Source: Towers Watson analysis 2014

When combined with a lower spending strategy, there is little difference in the likelihood of savings lasting to age 90 for a conservative versus a balanced investment portfolio. But the residual balance left over at age 90 is likely to be much higher for a balanced investment portfolio. For the sample couple, staying invested in growth assets produces a better outcome than de-risking, either gradually via a lifecycle or target date fund or more suddenly.

$50,000 pa spending strategy – residual balance and likelihood of super lasting to age 90

Source: Towers Watson analysis 2014

Retirees likely to have variable spending patterns

A number of academic research papers suggest that a retiree’s spending is likely to start reducing by around age 80. This is supported by recent ASFA research which produced a revised Retirement Standard for a 90 year old (the original ASFA Retirement Standard is based on a 70 year old), which shows that the ‘comfortable’ level of expenditures for a 90 year old is about 10% lower than for retirees aged 65-80.

This provides a good opportunity for a retiree in their 70s to purchase some form of guaranteed annuity or other longevity risk pooling vehicle. An adaptive spending strategy, where people adjust their spending based on recent performance, is also likely to further improve the likelihood of financial success in retirement.

When designing default retirement income solutions, superannuation funds first need to understand the demographics and expectations of the members they are targeting. The funds also need to help their members to understand more about their own expected retirement outcomes and the risks they face, by providing tools such as written retirement income estimates and online calculators. Only then will funds be able to guide their members more effectively into retirement income solutions that better suit their needs.

 

Andrew Boal is Managing Director for Towers Watson in Australia. This article is general information and readers should seek their own professional advice. A full copy of the paper: The path to retirement success: How important are your investment and spending strategies? can be found here.

 

3 Comments
Andrew Boal
February 09, 2015

Thanks Geoff, we have allowed for indexation of income levels at AWOTE to keep pace not only with inflation but also community livings standards. Of course, later in life, inflation indexation is probably enough. Combined with a lower spending level in later life, this provides a great opportunity to purchase some form of longevity insurance (which is also a form of dementia proofing your portfolio, as 25-30% of 85-90 years olds have dementia).

Geoff Howse
February 09, 2015

Succinct, but not very useful without one piece of information which seems to be missing: Is the annual spending of $50-52k in 2015 purchasing power or in the face value of the currency in future years? Even with low inflation of say 2-3%, after 20-25 years this has a very significant effect. If for some unexpected reason we get a few years of say 6% inflation, then $50k would be starting to sound very dire.

Jerome Lander
February 06, 2015

Very succinct article with good insight. Generic derisking in retirement is rarely a good idea. Good risk management needs to consider the possibility that lifespan (and quality of life) is extended beyond anyone's current expectations due to medical science and technology advancements. 20-30 years is a long time and a step change is a significant possibility over this period.

Given cash and bond yields are set to reach very low levels in Australia - and the current global investment backdrop of financial repression - derisking becomes a potentially risky strategy for retirees to adopt.

Just as saving before retirement is incredibly important, you highlight the importance of sensible spending in retirement.

 

Leave a Comment:

     

RELATED ARTICLES

How to give retirees the confidence to spend

Summer Series, Guest Editor, Jeremy Cooper

The equity of government support for retirement income

banner

Most viewed in recent weeks

Is it better to rent or own a home under the age pension?

With 62% of Australians aged 65 and over relying at least partially on the age pension, are they better off owning their home or renting? There is an extra pension asset allowance for those not owning a home.

Too many retirees miss out on this valuable super fund benefit

With 700 Australians retiring every day, retirement income solutions are more important than ever. Why do millions of retirees eligible for a more tax-efficient pension account hold money in accumulation?

Is the fossil fuel narrative simply too convenient?

A fund manager argues it is immoral to deny poor countries access to relatively cheap energy from fossil fuels. Wealthy countries must recognise the transition is a multi-decade challenge and continue to invest.

Reece Birtles on selecting stocks for income in retirement

Equity investing comes with volatility that makes many retirees uncomfortable. A focus on income which is less volatile than share prices, and quality companies delivering robust earnings, offers more reassurance.

Comparing generations and the nine dimensions of our well-being

Using the nine dimensions of well-being used by the OECD, and dividing Australians into Baby Boomers, Generation Xers or Millennials, it is surprisingly easy to identify the winners and losers for most dimensions.

Anton in 2006 v 2022, it's deja vu (all over again)

What was bothering markets in 2006? Try the end of cheap money, bond yields rising, high energy prices and record high commodity prices feeding inflation. Who says these are 'unprecedented' times? It's 2006 v 2022.

Latest Updates

Superannuation

Superannuation: a 30+ year journey but now stop fiddling

Few people have been closer to superannuation policy over the years than Noel Whittaker, especially when he established his eponymous financial planning business. He takes us on a quick guided tour.

Survey: share your retirement experiences

All Baby Boomers are now over 55 and many are either in retirement or thinking about a transition from work. But what is retirement like? Is it the golden years or a drag? Do you have tips for making the most of it?

Interviews

Time for value as ‘promise generators’ fail to deliver

A $28 billion global manager still sees far more potential in value than growth stocks, believes energy stocks are undervalued including an Australian company, and describes the need for resilience in investing.

Superannuation

Paul Keating's long-term plans for super and imputation

Paul Keating not only designed compulsory superannuation but in the 30 years since its introduction, he has maintained the rage. Here are highlights of three articles on SG's origins and two more recent interviews.

Fixed interest

On interest rates and credit, do you feel the need for speed?

Central bank support for credit and equity markets is reversing, which has led to wider spreads and higher rates. But what does that mean and is it time to jump at higher rates or do they have some way to go?

Investment strategies

Death notices for the 60/40 portfolio are premature

Pundits have once again declared the death of the 60% stock/40% bond portfolio amid sharp declines in both stock and bond prices. Based on history, balanced portfolios are apt to prove the naysayers wrong, again.

Exchange traded products

ETFs and the eight biggest worries in index investing

Both passive investing and ETFs have withstood criticism as their popularity has grown. They have been blamed for causing bubbles, distorting the market, and concentrating share ownership. Are any of these criticisms valid?

Sponsors

Alliances

© 2022 Morningstar, Inc. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer
The data, research and opinions provided here are for information purposes; are not an offer to buy or sell a security; and are not warranted to be correct, complete or accurate. Morningstar, its affiliates, and third-party content providers are not responsible for any investment decisions, damages or losses resulting from, or related to, the data and analyses or their use. Any general advice or ‘regulated financial advice’ under New Zealand law has been prepared by Morningstar Australasia Pty Ltd (ABN: 95 090 665 544, AFSL: 240892) and/or Morningstar Research Ltd, subsidiaries of Morningstar, Inc, without reference to your objectives, financial situation or needs. For more information refer to our Financial Services Guide (AU) and Financial Advice Provider Disclosure Statement (NZ). You should consider the advice in light of these matters and if applicable, the relevant Product Disclosure Statement before making any decision to invest. Past performance does not necessarily indicate a financial product’s future performance. To obtain advice tailored to your situation, contact a professional financial adviser. Articles are current as at date of publication.
This website contains information and opinions provided by third parties. Inclusion of this information does not necessarily represent Morningstar’s positions, strategies or opinions and should not be considered an endorsement by Morningstar.

Website Development by Master Publisher.